Designed by A.V. Roe & Company, this two-place rotary powered (80-hp Gnome Lamda 7–cyl) tractor biplane debuted in September 1913 with the Royal Flying Corp and Royal Naval Air Service as a multi-purpose observation aircraft. The Avro 504 achieved three “firsts” during its short, frontline combat service: (1) First British aircraft shot down by enemy fire (22 August 1914); (2) first aircraft to strafe troops on the ground; and (3) first aircraft to make a bombing raid over Germany. It is best known as a trainer and served in this role until 1933.
Continuously upgraded the later J & K models were powered by 110hp le Rhone rotaries giving a max speed of 95 mph. Significantly, different rotary engines could be mounted via field modification as they became available which increased the 504s serviceability. Standard with the undercarriage was an ash skid (often referred to as “the toothpick” mounted on steel Vee struts to prevent propellor damage during nose-overs.
Our 504K represents a significant maturity mark in military aviation history with the realization that dedicated and standardized aircraft and pilot training were required to maintain an efficient war winning airforce. This was the greatest factor in overall RAF 1918 superiority coupled with the world’s best supply and maintence system to keep the increasing numbers of aircraft flying.
Surplus 504s also found their way throughout the Commonwealth where they were used a trainer as well as personal aircraft. The 504K remained the RAF’s basic trainer until the de Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moth was introduced in 1932, thus gaining the moniker of “Trainer of the Empire”.
MAM’s Avro 504K is a beautifully crafted full-scale static model built by Pur Sang, an Argentine company better known for rebuilding and making replicas of vintage Bugatti cars. It has a plastic rotary engine. It now hangs in the east side of the Army Hangar.
Did You know?
22-victory WW2 ace Group Captain Douglas Bader joined the Royal Air Force in September 1928 and trained in and first soloed at the controls of an Avro 504.
First Strategic Bombing Mission in History carried out was an aerial attack on the Zeppelin airship
sheds and factory at Friedrickshafen on Lake Constance. The 3 Naval Avro 504s each carrying four 20-lb Hale bombs were credited with the destruction of one airship, a large shed, and a hydrogen-producing plant. One aircraft was shot down and pilot captured.
The engine mounting system using large circular cowling and an engine mount with mounting adaptor rings, allowed field mounting of multiple rotary engine models with different horsepower ratings and engine diameters, such as the 100-hp Gnome Monosoupape, the 80- or 110-hp Le Rhône, and the 130-hp Clerget.
In late 1917, Avro 504Ks (and Avro 504Js) were converted to a single-seat configuration with one gun firing over the wing and were used to equip several Home Defense squadrons of the RFC.